“Tears are often the telescope by which men see far into heaven.” - Henry Ward Beecher
Francis Gardner was damned with an incurable curse of the moods. He was diagnosed years ago, by a wise man named Francis. He died quite awhile ago, leaving behind a soulless human. The darkness soon became a game he played often. He would look up the hole he was trapped in, and dare life to bring him father down. Every time he played he would loose, crumbling down into an even smaller man.
Francis Gardner had two real good friends, liquor and coke. He would spend his days working at a paper mill. A bottle of rum assisting him throughout his hours. He was Responsible for supporting the safe and efficient operation of the Paper Machine (pulper), watching over the men who ran the damn thing. Francis had worked there for twenty three years, each year as uneventful as the last.
Francis Gardner lived in a one room apartment, barely getting by each month’s rent. He wasn’t there often, only came by to sleep from two in the morning to six. He would get off from work at five, from there he would go straight to “Porky’s Pub”. The place was a shit hold, made for poor alcoholics with no will to live. The liquor was adequate, nothing more nor less. He always ordered the same bland drink, strong enough to cary him from the darkness. After spending a couple of hours sitting on his ass, he would get up. He would eventually go to the bathroom, hoping to find himself alone. There he would take the ziplock bag of white powder out from his pocket, and line it up against the sink. He would then lean in, running his nose along the trail of cocaine. He sniffed hard, feeling the blood run along his cheeks. He would find himself at peace, but that wouldn’t last long, When the high was gone the depression swept in stronger than it was before. It would wrap its hands around his throat, fishing for his last exalted breath.
September 23rd, 1987, the day the town of “Wither Gate” would remember.
He sat on a chair, a paper posted up against his legs. He played with the cigar that dangled between his lips, watching the blocks of tree pulp travel along the conveyor belt. The white clumps galloped to the edge, dangling above the pulper. The machine was a short circular hole, with a drill at the bottom that would grind the pulp into a clumpy thick liquid. He heard the rough grinding clatter, as the blocks fell in. Sometimes he felt a desire to go into the pulper, and end it all. It felt more realistic than living his days depressed.
He looked down at his blank paper, pulling a pen from his pocket. He popped the cap off, listening to the soft metallic rattle as the pulper did its work.
The recognizable voice bellowed for his attention.
He turned, holding his breath. “Shit.” The CEO of the paper mill stood in his office, staring Francis down from his window. He was a heavy set man, with an addiction to tearing his workers apart. “Whats he got for me this time.” He stood from his chair, a sour expression on his face. The CEO’s name was Richard Sean, a man who Francis disliked much. He was more ill-tempered than he was, and that was saying something. The man had a quick whip, which he would use to bring his workers pain. Richard had cold blood, with a heart made of stone.
Francis knew walking into that office would only bring him farther down.
“Come in, Francis.”
He stepped into the room, a gelid breeze brushing against his face.
“What do you need sir?”
Richard sat in his cushioned chair, his right hand grasped around a bottle of rum. He leaned back, his feet dangling above the floor.
“Settle down boy … you’re not in trouble.”
Finding it hard to believe, Francis kept stiff.
“I need a favor from you, it’s real important so you must be up to it … are you?”
He felt the soft tingle of fear trickle up his spine.
“Good. I’ve got to cut back some workers, cause business ain’t booming. I’ve decided I’m going to have to lay Adam Harris off, as much as I love the kid, he’s work ethic is terrible. I need you to go fire him for me … I’d do it myself, but I’m real good friends with his father, and I don’t want to risk our relationship.”
Richard sat the glass on his desk, his lips curling.
“Because I trust you … do I have reason to suspect I shouldn’t?”
“Good. You’ll do me this favor correct?”
Francis felt a lump form in his throat, as he nodded. Adam was a clumsy worker, but a nice one. He was the only man that dared to start a conversation with the old drunk.
“Get on with it.”
He left the CEO’s office, trembling from head to toe. He was not ready to be put in a position to fire a man he called a friend. What would he say anyway, “Hey buddy, guess what … you’re fired.” Then, there was the possibility Adam wouldn’t take the news lightly. What if he retaliated, fighting back in anger. Francis felt dizzy, as he went over to the pulper. The machinery spun the pulp around, tearing it apart. He stopped at the edge, peering in. The murky white liquid swirled around, growling as it became shredded.
Francis stepped back, lighting another cigarette. “God, help me.” The butterflies fluttered in his stomach, his fear churning into a large ball of pity. He looked back, staring at the clock. “1:00 pm” That means Adam’s on break.
He looked around, no sign of the twenty four year old anywhere. He let out a breath, clenching his hands into fists. Adam was probably outside, sipping on a can of “Buck Horn”.
The thought turned over in his head, dissolving into his trepidation. “What if he hurts me?” The idea seemed silly, but he hadn’t ruled it out as a possibility. Adam Harris was a mystery man, not much was known about the guy. He could be a serial killer by all means, and nobody would ever know.
Francis took hold of the handle, turning it slowly. “Last chance to stop … after this there’s no turning back.” He opened the door, the autumn breeze sweeping in.
“Adam”, he called out.
The mill was built back in the 30s, the first paper factory for the town of “Wither Gate”. Robert Sean’s grandfather founded the company when he was forty, passing the business off to his son twenty years later. Francis Gardner entered the business when he was twenty three, not expecting to live the rest of his days as a “Seans Paper Mill” employee. Robert became the CEO when Francis turned thirty two, running the mill to shits.
The factory overlooked a long field of green, the central of the town hidden behind the landscape of trees. The place was quiet, other than the pulper of course.
The silence was prolonged for awhile, but he soon answered. “Over here.” Francis turned to the right, a grim smile spreading from cheek to cheek.
Adam leaned against the brick wall, with a can of what Francis had guessed before, “Buck Horn”. The young man kept his gaze on the sky, pulling back his blonde hair with his left hand.
“What you need Francis? I’m on break.”
He turned to Gardner, taking a hefty gulp of his beer.
“I know Adam, but Mr, Sean sent me.”
The twenty four year old chuckled, setting the can of “Buck horn” down on the floor.
“What does he need?”
Adam’s lips tightened, his eyes narrowing.
“Am I fired?”
Francis’s heart sunk, as he nodded.
“I’m afraid so.”
Adam bit his lips, as clenched his hands around his baggy jeans.
“Why’d he send you?”
“It’s cause of my father isn’t it.”
Francis stared at him blankly, unable to speak.
Adam walked towards the door which Francis stood in front of.
“Well, I’ll go get my things.”
The sent of alcohol settled in the air, as Adam walked back into the factory. Francis felt bad, even worst when he heard the soft sniffles coming from the man he just fired.
Francis walked back over to the chair where he was sitting at before, and took out a blank paper. Posting it up against his legs, he uncapped a pen. He began to sketch, attempting to pass the time. He checked the clock behind him. “1:23 pm” Less than four hours, and he’l be able to go to the pub and forget the days worth of bullshit. He turned back to his paper, feeling himself crumble under the pressure.
Suicide had always stood as the number one way out, but he feared what was on the other side. He called himself a christian, and tying a rope into a noose didn’t seem very christian like. He believed if he did ever let himself commit the moral sin, he’d most likely make a visit to the Devil. “Hell.” Some of his worst days ended with him holding a blade to his throat, but something would always stop him from ending the job.
Hearing the footsteps travel behind him, he turned. Adam stepped into Richard Sean’s office, all his stuff in a cardboard box that he held in his hands. “Poor kid.” Francis felt sympathy for Adam, he recounted what his intensions were for the mill. He wanted to be the manager one day, creating a more workable environment. Now that Adam’s dreams were all crushed, Francis wondered what was next for the guy. He’d probably end up like himself. Forty years old, single, and an alcoholic (drug user).
Francis Gardner sat in his chair for a few minutes, before the noises began. The soft gurgling sounds thundered down the hall. They were clear, but rough. Something wasn’t right, he could tell that much.
“What in the world is going on in there”, William Seaver muttered from the pulper.
Francis stood, looking at the CEO’s office. The window blinds were closed, and the door shut. Another sound came into perspective. The noise sounded much like the pulper did, a deep grinding clatter. He walked towards the office, blood running cold. “What’s happening.” Thoughts flooded his mind with anxiety. “What if Adam fought back … or Richard.” Everything set aside, someone was in trouble.
Francis wrapped his hands around the knob, turning it with fear. “Please God, protect me.” He swung the door open with one brisk thrust, backing up immediately.
Richard Sean’s body laid at Adam Harris’s feet. His eyes peeled back, staring up at the ceiling with a lifeless glow. They rocked back and forth in their sunken sockets, on the brink of falling out.
“Oh Jesus”, the words were pulled out of his mouth as if they were attached to a string.
Richard’s neck flaked open, like a “Pez Dispenser”. The pool of blood circled his large head, Francis staring at his reflection on the surface. “This can’t be happening.” Richard’s pallid flesh turned clammy and grey. Francis wrinkled his nose to the putrid stench of hot blood.
He closed his eyes, trying to escape the sight, but within the darkness Francis could still the body of his CEO. His chest not rising nor falling, he knew he was too late. Richard Sean was dead, killed by a man that stood above his body.
Francis tasted bile in his throat, as he looked up. Adam stood taller than usual, clothes stained scarlet red. The blonde haired boy smiled, raising something grasped in his right hand to his throat. The knife rested along his flesh, yearning for the taste of blood.
“Join me”, Adam muttered.
The metallic rattling boomed into perspective, rambling for help. The hefty machine spun the liquid that had once been white around its drill, tearing it apart. The pulp ran red, chunks of flesh floating to the surface. The pulper made one last noise, as if it burped, before shutting off.